“Historically, what we’ve seen is gambling has been a bit like alcohol was,” said Griffiths, the Nottingham Trent professor. “It’s gone from being a sin to being a vice to being a socially acceptable leisure activity.”
Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, has expressed concern about gambling interests potentially impacting competition, and the organization has a gambling committee assigned to closely monitor betting patterns in London. Still, the Olympics and sports gambling are closely aligned here. In the Stratford district, Coral’s corporate offices are located just one floor below the British Olympic Committee. One of its newest parlors is situated across from a Starbucks in a mall on the edge of Olympic Park.
With soft blue mood lighting and a wall of televisions, the parlor feels more like an Apple store than a shady backroom poker game. There’s no alcohol or smoking allowed in any of the parlors, and most are free of frills or charm.
The vast majority of bettors are Brits, most opting for horse racing or soccer action, but the parlor near Olympic Park is drawing plenty of curious tourists, said Gary Rose, an assistant manager there.
“The Americans are coming in and to their credit, they’re backing their boys and girls,” he said, “regardless of how good they are.”
Rose said one such patriot visited the parlor Monday and despite 200-to-1 odds, bet five pounds (less than $8) on an American swimmer.
“I thought it was quite crazy, to be sure,” Rose said. “But she said she wanted to take the slip home and frame it.”
While the Olympics were a massive undertaking for the British gaming companies, oddsmakers must continually monitor each day’s events to tweak the odds and create new propositions. A huge share of Olympic betting is coming from “in-play” action — wagers made while a game is still in-progress.
“That’s the biggest thing we found during the first weekend,” said Bridge, from Ladbrokes. “Not everyone wants to go down to the shop. People literally sat on their sofas with laptops and mobiles and placed their bets before and during the competitions. It’s their way of feeling like they’re a part of the Olympics, I suppose.”